January 2008


the greenhouse has gone. well, not exactly gone, as in, *poof!*, but as in, trashed, wrecked. 6.00am this morning, the rickety fence between our neighbour and us collapsed, crashed into the greenhouse, and knocked the whole thing over. Michiel woke me, i dressed and we ran out, ripped the cover from it, the whole frame had collapsed, so the intention was to just lock down the cover to stop it blowing away (and causing an accident – the wind was gusting to 45mph according to one weather site) and rescue the contents of the greenhouse. Fortunately there was only one plant in there, in dormancy (chives) so nothing was killed, it was more a question of bringing in  empty pots etc., in order to prevent them being blown away too.

I shall take photos of what’s left when its daylight, but needless to say: the greenhouse frame is damaged beyond repair and i shall have to get another one, rather than resorting to a new cover (which i had hoped to get).  it’s also putting a dampner on my plans to use the greenhouse as an enormous coldframe, at least until March winds are over (and, more importantly) the fence has been repaired/replaced. I have a feeling they’re gonna have to dig up part of the garden in order to get that done. *le sigh*.

so right now i am sat here with a cuppa, then i am gonna go back to bed. I’m okay, as i was half expecting the cover to be ripped, but i am annoyed about the fence. It should have been repaired by now, so i shall be going to the housing later today to report it.

with luck a better fence will go up soon, then i can get a new greenhouse, and it won’t affect my growing schedule..

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podcasts have been around for a while now, and are becoming increasingly popular on the net. For obvious reasons i’ve always skipped right on by, but recently Mel of Beansprouts thought about setting up a podcast on her blog, and asked what people thought. so i spoke up about the difficulties of listening to a podcast when you’ve a hearing problem, and she promised to think about transcriptions. (which is great, cos transcriptions take ages but are a real boon to people like us.)

And then i started emailing Emma of Fluffius Muppetus.  Initially it was over some seeds: she put extra packets she had going spare on her blog, said, if you want them, send me an SAE. which i did. And then she asked, having seen my comment on Mel’s blog, about transcriptions of podcasts, since she did them fairly frequently, about whether they would be useful to anyone, are deaf people interested in gardening? i actually found her question quite difficult to answer, mostly because i don’t keep in touch with the deaf community – i really only know one deaf person at the moment, and she’s in the US (although she does, as it happens, love gardening!).

Today i went to look stuff up on this issue. there isn’t a lot out there – most searches on podcast and deaf leads to videopodcasts by deaf people (which is of course a good thing), but i found a few. This page (by the RNIB – Royal National Institute for the Blind, funnily enough) has good tips on how to make a good podcast for the disabled, including the deaf, this blog entry, although rather old, has some valid points, and this blog entry has more tips, including autotranscribing services.

Anyway. back to Emma. i settled for saying: give it a try, look at the download figures of the PDF as a percentage of download figures for the podcast and make a decision from there whether you’re going to continue them. so that’s what she’s done. And she’s promised to talk to some other podcasters she knows, so if it proves popular, its a little bit of the net converted for deaf people..

I looked at the first one this morning, and its fantastic! it looks so professional, I’m actually considering downloading the podcast just to listen to her voice, and i don’t say that often 🙂

So well done to Emma!!!

Go have a look, download and listen!! I promise its worth it.. Thanks Emma!

breakfast this morning was stuffed mushrooms..

I’d spotted a pack of 4 large flat mushrooms in lidl so grabbed them, thinking i could do something with them for breakfast. Which i did, using storecupboard/fridge ingredients.. sprayed fry-light on the tray, then took the stalk out. put them rounded side down on the tray, smeared pesto over the inside, then put a smallish slice of low fat mozzarella on top of that, then piled stuffing ontop of that – a mix of the stalks, cut up small, breadcrumbs, mixed herbs, grated cheddar and grated parmesan, and some finely chopped spring onions. Some grated parmesan ontop of that. Into a Gas Mark 5 (200*C? i think) oven for 15-20 minutes.

very very very yum. seriously moreish. i’d do less pesto next time, though. and upgrade it to an evening meal, serve it with salad. yep. definetly doing it again. 🙂

…. or minted pea soup. 😀

someone gave me an idea for a soup, when discussing pesto over on MSE, so i tried it out. it works!!! Apart from the colour. rather unappetising bright green, but wonderful if you’ve got a bunch of kids to feed for halloween – you could tell em its warty toad soup!!

250g frozen peas / half pint of stock (I make mine up from 1 heaped tsp marigold’s boullion, which is vegetarian, but you could use chicken stock or even ham stock) / 1 to 1.5 tsp mint jelly (i like the sweetness and mintiness so i put more in, but you could use mint sauce too, if you like, or you could put less mint jelly in).

1. put peas in saucepan.
2. pour stock ontop.
3. bring to the boil. turn heat down and simmer for a few minutes.
4. turn out heat, put minted jelly into pan too, and whizz with a blending stick or pour into a blender and whizz there.
5. season and serve with bread and butter.

yum. and cheap! and healthy! wins all round!!!

* no toads were harmed in the making of this post. or soup. or anything. nup. no toads harmed by me, ever. 🙂 i is toad friendly!

stolen from BEG… ones in purple, i’ve seen at least a couple of episodes. ones in purple and italicised i’ve seen every episode of, faithfully. Oh, and its rather long, so behind a cut. I’ve added a couple of shows that weren’t on the original list. and of course, some of them, I’m actually up to date with as far as they’re shown on UK TV.

Conclusion? I watch far too much TV. And far too much US TV.

On the other hand.. gimme crime, gimme sci-fi, i’m a happy girlie..

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Feeling distinctly ‘off’, today. Not exactly ill, and my back is not too sore, just feeling low. Not wanting to do anything. I guess you’d call it a sofa day. So i decided to do my garden plan for 2008.. hopes n dreams always make me feel better. 🙂

Garden Plan, 2008

I’ve put some info in the “garden” link at the top, but i also want to do a post here. Obviously, there’s a lot of changes. (see the garden link at the top for last year’s plan, and how it looks now). i plan to string netting up along the fence, and grow a variety of flowering climbers like sweet peas along the fence, as much as possible. Because the trees grow quite close to the fence, finding shade loving climbers within my budget may be awkward. Still, i’ll do my best. In the long run i’d like to replace the annual sweetpea type with perennials like ivy, so there’s something there in winter too, but we’ll see. that’s the red squiggle around the fence, anyway.

In the side garden, there’s a long path going down the middle of the garden made out of grass. I’ll almost certainly be buying a box of grass seed, to help the grass recover some, especially where the back door leads to the back gate (I plan to put some paving stones down to help minimise wear and tear along there). A lawnmower is on the cards as well, i do realise from last year that using a trimmer is exhausting and just isn’t going to do the job. i hope to grow other flowers as well, my old favorites, cornflowers, nigella, aquilegia, ipomea, and some new ones – poppies, foxgloves, sunflowers, and allium christophii (which gives lovely big heads that are ideal for dried arrangements). these, with the exception of the sweetpeas which will go around the hedge (and i hope to get some more ultra tall canes to make a sweet pea wigwam) will go where i can find room, but mostly underneath the trees/washing line, so that they can be viewed from the house. a full list, including varieties, is provided below.

Back to the side garden!! I plan to grow mostly spuds here. I did a trial run with some ordinary eating spuds that had chitted quite on their own last year, and i was amazed at how well they did, despite the dreadful weather and lack of care from me. Although spuds are cheap enough in the shops that i initially swore i wouldn’t grow them, i had been rethinking this since the success of the spuds last year, and a programme on the box changed my mind completely at christmas: the hairy bikers, who went to visit a spud grower who grew some unusual varities, including purple potatoes!! anyone who knows me knows i love purple so.. spuds have made it onto my growing list. Or they will, as soon as i get some.

as you come up the side garden towards the bit that’s overseen by the windows, you start to increase the amount of sunlight the ground gets. In this area i plan to plan onions, leeks, celeriacs, cauliflower, kale, sweetcorn, squash and courgettes.

In last year’s bed 3, i plan to turn that completely over to fruit. I hope to get some raspberry canes to go along the back, then the front of the bed will have strawberry plants from last year, in a permanent home. I may well grow some more strawberry plants in a growbag, just to replace them next year, so that we have a continuous supply of fruit. Everyone says with strawberries not to expect a lot of fruit the first year, so since these are last year’s plants, i hope to get lots of strawberries this year. I’ve even got straw, ready to mulch them!

Bed One will be turned almost completely over to pulses. a couple of cucumber plants will be at one end, some garlic at the other, a wigwam in the middle with climbing beans on, and dwarf beans filling in the gaps. However, i may switch things around – we’ll see. the problem with doing it this way of course is that the cucumber plants would be in the shade of the wigwam. hm. have to think about that one. I’m also thinking about doing mixes of peas/beans on the wigwams – i don’t know if that’s a good idea or not. any thoughts, anyone?

Bed two will be turned over, again, almost completely to tomatoes. the first year i grew tomatoes i grew them in the ground, but – inexperience showing – i made mistakes, like sowing them too late in the season, not taking out the sideshoots, and all this meant that the majority of my crop was late and still green. Last year i sowed much earlier, and pinched out the side shoots religiously (well, religiously once i realised the b**** things grow back!!) and as a result got ripe tomatoes earlier, and i was pleased with that. However, i felt they struggled in the growbags, so i want to return to growing them in the soil this year. I’ve a wide selection of tomato plants so i shall probably be growing one or two of each type. some will also be grown in pots (for example, tumbling tom in a hanging basket) but they’re suited to that anyway. At the end of Bed 3 will be a wigwam turned over to either sweetpeas or beans. I’m not sure yet. I felt the wigwams last year were a waste of space, so either the beans/peas do better this year, and i continue using them next year, or they come out.

Courgettes will be grown in the bit between the flower garden and the side garden. Courgettes, as we all know, need *room*, and although the bed itself will be quite narrow, the actual space they’ll have to grow above ground is considerably larger, and i hope they’ll do well there. I also have a climbing courgette variety, which i hope to grow in a big pot outside the back door, up a trellis attached to the wall. if that is a success then i may cut down on the other types of courgette in 2009, simply because they are such space hoggers.

Salad veg will be grown, but i plan to grow them in pots, simply to try to keep them away from slugs. I found the little b******s completely decimated any of my salad leaves last year, even ones that i had started in the greenhouse in a lootube and replanted on (to minimise root disturbance, which they notoriously hate). they’d be planted out and within a couple of days they’d be gone. They’ll be situated around the outside of the greenhouse and the back door, in amongst the herbs.

I want to expand the herb collection a lot this year, in pots. I hope to purchase more large pots as well, when they’re £5 a pop they do limit you in terms of what you can buy. However, i buy herbs like coriander (cilantro) every week, at 50p a bunch, which goes off very very quickly, and periodically buy dill and parsley, so i figure that growing these and other herbs would save me money. I’d especially like to grow basil as well – its a very easy herb to grow, and it tastes fabby in salads. If the growing-salad-in-pots and nematode stuff that’s on order works and i actually *get* salad stuff this year, then i hope to be providing us with a side salad to our meals most nights this summer, which would be a great healthwise.

Altogether i want a garden that provides me with as much food as possible, that looks good, smells good, and is a haven for me, Michiel and Jess. I just hope that the weather and the local kids co-operate with that!!!

Full list of what i’m growing together with links behind the cut:

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my back is still quite sore. Its better than it was originally, for a while it was very very sore, to the point where even *sitting* first thing was agony. Thankfully that part at least has gone down, but its still very stiff when i first get up, hurts when i move around, and i really struggle to do a lot. I’m mostly so frustrated: there’s so much i want to get on with and i’m really struggling to do it. i know i should really be resting completely but i’m stubborn, and i want to get stuff DONE!!

even sez was tut-tutting me last night when i told her i thought i’d overdone it on saturday. “you’ve got to stop doing that”, she said. thing is.. overdoing it isn’t exactly doing a lot. Here’s what i did saturday:

  • went to lidl to do a little bit of shopping (which involves walking 800 yards up the road and back again, i had my little granny trolley with me so i wasn’t carrying anything heavy home, just pulling it and i didn’t get a lot of heavy stuff) and the asian food store (which is almost on the way home, about 100 yards out of my way).
  • Got back and did the washing up (normally Michiel does it, but friday night his back was sore – we’re a right pair, i know).
  • i made up some bread dough, kneaded that a bit, and put it back into the bowl to rise. heated milk to the boil and watched it cool again, then poured into the thermos to make yoghurt overnight.
  • made guacamole in the food processor with two very squidgy avocados (which were going cheap at the asian food shop).
  • chopped some apple/pear/plum mix, with sultanas and cinnamon, and nuked it to make a sort of sauce to stir into yoghurt for breakfast.
  • made some dough up to make tortilla pancakes (actually, did this twice – the first batch was bleaarrrgh). didn’t make the pancakes in the end up though, just covered the dough and popped them into the fridge to make on sunday.
  • cooked pizza – a really strenuous task involving removing pizza from freezer, grating extra parmesan on top, with mixed herbs, extra pepper and a bit of flaked chilli, then putting into the oven.

see what i mean? then i sat down and watched saturday night’s TV and after that, went to bed. and yet on sunday i felt terrible. I’d obviously overdone it. arggh.

On the plus side.. if i actually sit down to think about it.. i’m getting quite a lot done despite my back problems. At one time i probably would’ve just flaked out on the sofa for a week and let Michiel pick up the slack. At least now i’m keeping ontop of the shopping (which at least is getting me out of the house most days, as i’m not walking jess at the moment – dog tugging on leash + sore back do not go well together), and evening meals, even if i’m not doing much else. the evening meals i’m quite proud of: i’ve cooked quite a lot of veggie food this last week and its been enjoyable. Veggie moussaka, refried beans with tacos and salsa, veggie pasta and i’ve still lots of recipes to try. we had chicken (Bird’s Eye) for the last time one night, together with the last of the croquettes from the freezer, the pizza had ham on, so that wasn’t veggie (but no chicken, at least), and yesterday we had beef stew, with beef from the freezer. tonight is veggie moussaka again, i’m hoping to eat veggie all week for the main meals, and get a nice free range chicken to eat on sunday as a roast (which i will try to rubberchickenise*), as a treat for Michiel, and some ham on the pizza on saturday night. Oh, and bacon and egg butties on saturday morning (which will be free range eggs).

I am hoping that come Wednesday my back will be well enough to enable me to go into town. I’d really like to get the bits n pieces to make 1) jess’s new bed, 2) reuseable sanitary towels 3) hankies. 4) keep a look out for material to make new curtains for the living room but this isn’t essential yet. 5) string to knit dishcloths with. 6) a crochet hook and yarn for me to make covers for jugs n stuff. 7) maybe some clothes for me. for example. i’ve a denim skirt that is still okay but for the fraying on one side. I figure i could hem that in, cut the bottom off, and use it to make a whole new skirt. Then i can use the denim cut off for something else. Ditto a pair of black denim jeans where the seams on the gusset have worn away. I’ve a black velvet skirt too where the velvet is still lovely but there’s a bad rip where the material joins the waistband. so lots to do there.

oh, and we’re having problems with our boiler. a service man came out and identified the problem, but it requires a part that he can’t get hold of till tuesday. so we’re left with a couple of those mini foot heaters that the guy left us with, and an oil filled heater my aunt gave me years ago which i’ve always hung onto as a backup in case the heating goes. Both are expensive to run so we’ve been keeping them to the minimum, where we can. At least we’ve still got hot water. that’s a blessing.

We’ve also had a gas bill: five and a half thousand pounds, going back to Jan ’05. This relates to the problems i described in this post. It doesn’t include *any* of the payments we’ve made over the same period, nor does it apply duel fuel discount. We’re hoping this has been automatically generated as a result of them trying to sort things out, but i’ll say this much: for the first year, we used £1,600 (£800 every six months). that’s regardless of whether its winter or summer. the second year we apparently used £858 the first six months, £1,562 the second six months. last year, from May to Jan this year, we’ve used £1,497. We’re a small, one bedroom flat. To use this kind of gas we would have to be running our heating system 24/7, and the cooker 24.7. We don’t. our flat is so well insulated that even just having the cooker on (no heating) on 27th Dec made the flat unbearably hot, as mom and dad will testify. Its ridiculous. I’ve emailed the financial adviser/debt counsellor (*waves to E*) and asked her to look into this, and hopefully it will just be an autogenerated bill. But if they seriously expect us to pay £5,500, then they have another think coming, and we’ll be heading to Energywatch. grr. we should have gone months ago, i think.

in garden news (not a lot)… my shallots have arrived (so i can grow onions for pickling!), i’m just waiting on a delivery of nematodes now, from my christmas presents, and that won’t arrive for some time yet. Fluffius Muppetus has promised me some peas – Douce Provence, by Victoriana, so i’ve to send off a SSAE for those, and then i can grow peas as well as sugarsnap peas and pea asparagus. (Many thanks to Fluffius Muppetus!) I’m thinking. is there any reason why i can’t grow all three and beans on one “wigwam” of canes, i wonder? or mix them with sweetpeas? I’ve only enough really tall canes to make 2 wigwams and they were enough of a pain in the bum getting home on the bus that i’ve no desire to repeat it this year, although i will if i have to. Granted, the Douce Provence only grow to 2 and a half feet, so i could use a smaller wigwam for those – i’ve plenty of smaller canes. I’ve written out all my veg & herb seeds in the garden diary (except the garlic and shallots – got to add those), and just the flowers left to do. then i must work out what needs planting and when. and where. i need to hire that rotavator (when my back gets better, i’m not that silly), and get lots of compost in. Buy a wheelbarrow. get some seed spuds. i want to get some more radish seeds – haven’t got any left, but they’re not expensive, so that’s okay. I’d like to look into getting more fruit bushes, but we’ll see. I’d also like to extend the herb garden, in pots. A lot to think about, still. I love this time of year. all bright with hope and promise. 🙂

for today though? I’m gonna go have a bath in a bit (word to the wise, the words “quick” and “bath” do not go together well with me) and soak my back in hot water, then do that veggie moussaka and generally try to have a quiet day. Might make some more yoghurt. We’re out of yoghurt cheese. Shocking state of affairs. Can’t be allowed to continue. 🙂

* rubberchickenise: not to do with how it tastes. rather to do with how many meals it does. 1) roast. 2) curry or somesuch with some of the leftovers. 3) stock with the carcass, make a soup of some kind. the principle is – use as much as possible and make it S-T-R-E-T-C-H. hence, rubber chicken. see here for ideas.

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